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Traditional school alternatives: Is one right for your child?

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By GreatSchools Staff

Core Knowledge

This very specific curriculum provides students with the information they need to develop "cultural literacy," or familiarity with important, nationally-shared knowledge and concepts. According to the Core Knowledge Foundation, an independent non-profit founded in 1986, this course of study promotes academic excellence and greater fairness in schools.

As of 2010, there were 770 official Core Knowledge schools and 414 preschools in the United States, many of which are public charter schools. Students in these schools use approved supplies and textbooks to learn the Core Knowledge sequence, gradually building on what they learn and completing academic goals as they move from grade to grade.

While it may seem that such specific instruction could leave out important information or prevent parental participation and teacher creativity, supporters argue that the consistency of the Core Knowledge curriculum motivates students, teachers and parents alike to get involved in education.

Read our article "Core Knowledge schools".

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The IB academic program, taught in 125 countries worldwide, is a pre-university curriculum known for high academic standards and an emphasis on international understanding and citizenship. The Primary Years Programme, for students up to the age of 12, focuses on language, communication and reflective thinking. Students in the Middle Years Programme learn eight subjects, participate in community service and other extracurricular requirements, and complete long-term personal projects each year.

These earlier programs are designed to prepare students for the final IB curriculum, which begins at age 16. The Diploma Programme may be right for your high-schooler if she seeks a challenging college prep program with greater opportunities for critical thinking. The program can be found at 1,389 (and counting) schools nationwide, including many magnet schools in less affluent areas.

Read our article "What is International Baccalaureate?"

Comments from readers

"I find your web site pretty informative. Currently we reside in Asia and are planning to move back to the US in a few months time. We have a 13 yr old daughter who is diagnosed with ADHD, LD, anxiety disorder. I would really appreciate it if you can provide information on which public and private schools in the Maryland area have special ed support so I can contact the schools for further investigation. Thanks, Worried mom"
"I am a Waldorf educator and I am thrilled to see a description of Waldorf schools on this site. I think it would be helpful to readers if it were a little more descriptive. I would be interested in helping whomever is responsible for writing such descriptions. Thanks for considering and reading this."